Global Perspective

The inside of the cathedral near my apartment…breathtaking.

One thing I love about living in another country is that every day is full of adventure. Not only is it fascinating to travel to new and exotic places, but every bus ride, every afternoon stroll, and every interaction is also an opportunity to learn new and fascinating things about Spanish language and culture. For instance, simply by riding the bus to the university—and public transportation is an adventure in and of itself, as my friend Lisa will tell you—I’ve had the opportunity to get to know friends from countries as diverse as Japan, Italy, Turkey, and Germany. Hearing about life in all of these different countries from people who are my own age and who don’t look much different from the typical American college student (hehe, perhaps I naively thought, before arriving in Spain, that students from other countries would be easily distinguishable from American students) has been such an interesting and unique experience.

I’ve learned, for example, that the Japanese (at least in the city which several of my friends call home) typically eat rice three times a day. And breakfast? That would be one bowl of white rice, coming right up. On a more serious note, a Japanese friend and I had a thought-provoking discussion during class one day when she explained that, in contrast to Spain (where demonstrations are fairly common) in Japan, no one would want to go on strike or to hold a demonstration. Absolutely befuddled by this remark, I asked my friend why, if some injustice were being perpetuated or some corrupt system were causing hardship, people wouldn’t want to respond in vocal opposition. In an equally quizzical tone, she answered that the Japanese try to do what is best for the community as a whole—which doesn’t include holding demonstrations. Further perplexed by this remark (which, granted, was likely in a highly-simplified form due to the challenge of discussing the politics of her co
untry in a language not her own), I then asked how people could be content to simply sit back and to not defend their freedoms. She seemed to find this question as strange as the first, and shortly thereafter, we returned to studying more modest grammatical concepts.

Mika, Yuka, and I on our trip to Elche

Nevertheless, this exchange, and others like it, has made me aware of how uniquely American (in the USA-American sense of the word) my mindset and presuppositions are. That particular conversation, for one, both made me thankful for my heritage—after all, active citizenship is vital to the preservation of liberty—and prompted me to re-examine some of my presuppositions. If my friend’s statements were accurate, perhaps the Japanese generally have a better understanding of what it means to live in community, as opposed to the oft-rabid individualism we Americans tend to applaud and embrace? Since a few personal interactions are hardly statistically-sufficient grounds for making generalizations about entire cultures, I don’t claim know whether this is actually the case. But at any rate, I certainly am learning some interesting things about other cultures directly from the source. In the end, though, getting to know people from all over the world has impressed upon me one
reality in particular, which is this: although every culture is different, and has its own unique traits, we’re all remarkably similar as human beings. And I don’t say that as some watered-down reflection of the polytheistic, pantheistic, tolerance-revering mindset so prevalent in our world. Rather, I think that the image of God in humanity is far clearer and more universal than the more secondary cultural differences among us.

Beautiful Weather and Broadened Horizons

Ah, Friday. After a rather hectic week filled with classes, work, and various other activities and commitments, it is rather inexpressibly delightful to sit down and relax with a cup of tea and a good book. Of course, this Friday is made especially wonderful by the absolutely gorgeous weather which we are currently enjoying here in Due West. My great grandfather always used to say that there are twenty-six days during the year which are really perfect—not too cool, not too hot, but warm with a hint of cool breeze. And this week, I would venture to say that we have been graced with several such days all at once…which means that I may be tempted at any moment to cease typing in order to join the friends who are studying outside, basking in what seems to be spring-in-February. But before I do that, I’ll share with you a ground-breaking anecdote from Erskine life.

The college setting which I have come to love and which I affectionately call my “Erskine bubble” was, you see, unceremoniously popped this week—though not in a bad way. Every so often, I have concernedly puzzled over my inveterate tendency, while at school, to become so focused on everything I’m involved in here that I become completely detached from the outside world, aside from a periodic phone call home. This tendency is not necessarily a bad thing, since it does demonstrate how full—and far from boring!—life at Erskine can be. Nevertheless, as important as academic study and friendships here are, I highly doubt that utter ignorance of what is happening on the world stage is ever a healthy state.

And here is where the bubble popping I mentioned earlier comes in. Today I took one of the famous New York Times quizzes administered weekly by Erskine’s beloved Politics professor, Dr. Woodiwiss. This meant that I spent *cough* quite a length of time perusing four issues of the New York Times; as a result, I am far more informed on both national and international events than I was four days ago. On Monday, I had only the foggiest notion of what was unfolding in Egypt, and I hadn’t any idea that uprisings have broken out in Libya, Iran, and Bahrain in response to the riots in Egypt. (Ehe, I think I’d entirely forgotten about Bahrain’s existence, actually. Though I shouldn’t have, after taking World Civilizations last year…whoops.) I also didn’t know that a court in Ecuador is suing Chevron for environmental damages or that the Prime Minister of Italy is currently embroiled in scandal. If my horizons have been so significantly broadened in such a short amount of
time, what possibilities might the future hold?